If I Were Dr. Seuss

 

If I was Dr. Seuss, my latest book might sound like this:  I miss my parents every day, I always miss them in every way. I miss them when I’m here, and I miss them when I’m there. I miss them when I’m feeling sad, I miss them when I’m feeling glad. Do you miss them also? Do you, can you feel my pain? I miss them when it’s simchah-time, and I miss them when it’s yom-tov time.

The words “yom-tov time” hit me with a jolt.  I want to have what I once had and for my family to be the way it once was. And there is nothing like a yom-tov season to bring up those feelings. I will never again experience yom tov at my parents’ house: the early mornings where we bleary-eyed sisters sauntered into the kitchen with our energetic toddlers are no more. Those long coffee shmuesses and the leibedike yom-tov meals won’t happen anymore. No more yom-tov afternoon walks in my parents’ neighborhood or the blissfully quiet, late-night, adult-only seudahs.

I miss the unique feel and flavor, smells and sights of each yom-tov I experienced in my parents’ home. By nature I am a sentimental person. I always look back at days gone by with nostalgia – and life doesn’t stand still. People and circumstances are constantly changing. But the forced change came too early to my family. Death happened to people who were so young, heightening my feelings of longing for what once was.

Yet the memories that I have provide a strong basis for me of what I would like to pass down to my children. I want my children to enjoy family the way I enjoyed it. I want my children to enjoy talking, laughing and singing zemiros together. I want my children to want to come back home with their families, to enjoy the flavors and smells that are part of their childhood.

Hashem has given me a lot of berachah in my life. I won’t let the sadness and pain cause me to forget that.  I have a wonderful legacy to pass down that can’t get lost in the grief. I want to give my own children the gift of what I once had. It won’t be the same. It can’t be the same. We are different people. We are creating our own dynamics. And so our own unique approach to life, interwoven with my parents’ legacy, can be beautiful and special.

Their legacy is one of simchas hachayim. Despite the challenges they grappled with, my parents’ home was a joyful place, where laughter was constantly heard. And yom-tov time brought a lot of that. The ruchniyus and gashmiyus mixed together to create joyful, meaningful experiences.

My parents had true nachas from their family. They loved yom tov, when we would spend time together, enjoying divrei Torah interspersed with wit and humor. Every year on the first night of Sukkos my father would declare that our sukkah was the nicest in the neighborhood, and we all laughed. We laughed at the repetitiveness of his annual remarks, and we laughed because our sukkah was absolutely not the nicest. My father saw a sukkah that he built with my brother and decorated with my younger sister’s school-made projects. My father saw that for the next eight days he would enjoy family seudahs in this sukkah. He saw the night meals where we would talk and relax and the day meals where a bunch of screaming girls would run away from the bees. And to him that meant we had the nicest sukkah.

Pesach brought similar feelings. My father took great pride in our Seder table. The Sedarim that we shared with both sets of grandparents made it extra-special. My grandfather, a survivor of the Holocaust, relived the miracles of his life, sharing his appreciation for his personal cheirus with us. My mother basked in joy as she listened to her father speak, repeating to us children what we didn’t understand. I was the first to get married, but I was never ready to stop coming home. Because when there were four generations sitting at a Seder table, I knew I was experiencing something unique and exhilarating.

I’m not Dr. Seuss. I never will be. But in my own language I can say, “I will always miss my parents, especially at yom-tov time.”

I hope that as my children marry and move on, they will also want to come running back for more, sharing and describing to their children our family minhagim, jokes, zemiros – our own legacy, which I am passing down as a continuation of what my parents and grandparents created and passed on to me. And then I will really feel and know that my parents’ memory continues to live on.

Finding Hope

Recently I was talking to a few friends, and the conversation turned to the word hope and its definition. I realized that for me the definition of hope is recognizing that regardless of what comes my way, I can be okay. I might have to work through the emotions of sadness, anger fear… but at the end I can be okay.

A few weeks before my mother died, she called me up. She had just gotten off the phone from the doctor. He had said to her, “I will do my best, but the cancer is all over. I don’t think that there is much I can do.”

She was scared, and she was devastated. She really didn’t want to die. I was on the way out to the grocery store when she called me up with this bitter news.

Once again I was left holding the phone, wondering how I was supposed to know what to say to my mother who was young, who wanted to live, but had just been given a death sentence. I answered something that was probably not so appropriate, but I had nothing better so say. “Ma,” I said, “you have three up there and three down here. Why are you so afraid to die?”

She answered and said, “I am not so afraid to die. I just feel so bad for the three of you down here.”

In her fear and in her pain she was focusing on how the three of us down here, still in this world, and her concern for us. She knew that we would be immensely affected by her passing. She knew that we would suffer terrible pangs of loss. She knew that continuing onward would be a painful journey for us.

Today I wish I could continue that conversation with her. I would tell her that yes, her absence and my father’s absence have left a terrible void in me. I feel bereft and lonely. I feel as if I am left without guidance. I miss them on a daily basis and even more so when there is a simchah or a yom tov.

But I yearn so deeply to continue the conversation with her.  I long to tell her how much she and my father have given me. Although I constantly mourn their absence, they haven’t left us with nothing. It is from them that I learned that we can go on, even with pain. We can go onward and feel joyful despite the pain that can arise at any given moment.  They left us with the gift of continuing onward. They have left us with the gift of hope.

What Does Hashem Want from Me Now? Learning to Let Go

I had called Esti on her office line on that Tuesday afternoon. Oftentimes when she was at work she didn’t answer the phone. It meant that she was probably in a meeting. During the workday she never answered her cell phone. So it didn’t make much sense that I even tried calling her on that phone. But what made even less sense was that she answered.

“Esti,” I said, “why are you answering this phone? How come you’re not at work? Is everything okay?” And Esti, with her typical dry humor responded, “No, how did you hear already? I’m at the hospital. I just found out that my cancer came back.”

Looking back, I can tell you that I was very, very scared. But I think I became numb, and this helped me to continue functioning. She had made the decision not to tell my parents anything until she met with the doctor and had more details of her treatment plan. It was a very hard week for me. I was nervous and scared, and it was hard to pretend with my mother that everything was fine and normal.

By the time Friday rolled around, I was exhausted. I wanted to bench licht, plop on the couch and fall asleep. All I wanted was to run away from this nightmare. So when my mother called me close to Shabbos, I decided not to answer her call. I simply wasn’t in the mood of talking. But her message went something like this, “Miriam, I know you are busy. But this is an emergency. I must speak to you right away. Call me when you get this message.”

So I lunged for the phone and said, “Ma, is everything okay. What is going on?” And she responded, “Miriam, I don’t know how to say this. But I just came back from the doctor. I found out that I have cancer.”

The doctors were afraid that it had spread to her lungs. She was overpowered with fear as she awaited the results. Each time I spoke to her, I heard the fear in her voice. I felt so bad for her. And yet I knew something that she didn’t know yet. I knew something that would be even harder for her to deal with. I knew that my sister Esti had a really bad diagnosis, and it was going to devastate her.

Shushan Purim that year was the day of Esti’s appointment. Together we sat in a sterile, white, eerily silent room in Sloan Kettering. After what seemed like an endless wait, the doctor walked in. “Is this terminal?” she asked. “Am I going to die?” And without missing a beat he responded, “I never saw anyone live more than five years with this.”

I came home sad, scared and devastated. I wasn’t home too long when my mother called. And she sounded good. Really good. She was so relieved. She had just gotten back her results. No, it hadn’t spread to her lungs, and it looked like she would be okay! Although I was so happy for her, I couldn’t help but think, Ma, you have no idea what kind of phone call you are getting tonight.

It wasn’t too much later that she called me up hysterical. In a panicky voice her words burst forth, “Miriam, is Esti going to die? Am I going to lose another child?” I remember holding the phone and thinking, I am only 28 years old. How in the world am I supposed to know how to answer such a question?

But at that moment I made a decision. I decided that I would do whatever I possibly could to ease as much pain as possible. I will do anything I can to bring a little more comfort to my sick family members. I didn’t realize it, but essentially I was saying, “Hashem, I will let you have control of my life up until a certain point. I don’t much like what you have given me until now. So you can still control my life a little bit. But I will take over the rest. Because I need to make sure that my mother and sister have as little suffering as possible, and I trust myself more than I trust You.

There are many examples of where this attitude came in to play.

Whenever Esti had an emergency, she had an amazing support system of friends and relatives that would be by her side in seconds. But I was stuck feeling helpless in Lakewood. I needed to feel as if I was in control. So in a frenzied state I would call this friend and that relative. I had to feel like I was doing something, when in reality there was nothing I could do. The most beneficial thing would have been for me to daven. But I was so worked up, I couldn’t even sit still to daven. I had to take action to feel as if I could make a difference.

Shortly after she got married, she confided to me her desire for just one baby. “I know I can’t have a big family,” she said. And then her voce turned pleading, “But I wish I could have just one child of my own.” Immediately I went into high-speed doing mode. I called A Time and Bonei Olam for her. I wanted to get the process going – to see what I could do to help Esti have that baby.

Most sisters would make that initial phone call to help out a sick sister. There was nothing wrong with the fact that I wanted to help her out. The problem was that I “forgot” that Hashem is in charge. My mindset was what I could do. This is up to me. Once again my anxiety to provide her with a solution prevented me from davening.

My mother was in the hands of a really capable and caring doctor. One day he came to my mother with the news that he had accepted a job out of state. My mother asked him which doctor from the practice he would recommend for her to use going forward. He mentioned one doctor’s name, and that doctor became my mother’s new doctor.

But he was not a good doctor. He didn’t care. He didn’t invest enough of himself into his patients. And my mother started deteriorating under his care. It took a while until we realized that this doctor wasn’t doing enough for my mother. His cavalier attitude really seemed to be hindering my mother’s recovery. One day it hit me with a jolt that this doctor was not working. I said, “Ma, why are you still using this doctor?  Let’s switch.” We did research, and my mother switched to a different doctor who practiced out of a different hospital.

After my mother’s petirah, I was left with such anger at myself. I thought that if I would have taken action earlier and my mother would have switched doctors sooner, then maybe she would have lived a few more months. I berated and scolded myself over and over again. I forgot that death is not in my hands, but in the hands of Hashem.

My mother was really not well. Someone had to go be with her. My sisters had both gone recently, and now it was my turn. I flew in and went straight from the airport to the hospital. I stayed there with her that night. The next day I was with her most of the day, only leaving to care for my baby.  The following night I stayed with her again. I fell asleep sitting up in a chair right next to her bed.

Ordinary People

 

I grew up in the shadow of ordinary, thinking that my family name was that of plain, ordinary people. My parents were average people living ordinary lives. Or so I thought.

Because of the small size of the small town that I grew up in, my family was well known. But when asked what my last name was, I never felt pride saying it. After all we were just a regular, ordinary family.

And then one night my ordinary father had a massive heart attack and died instantly. My ordinary mother was very sick at the time. But determined to live, she battled her disease with all her energy until she succumbed to it shortly thereafter.

These weren’t just my family’s tragedies but the city’s tragedy. And so the house filled up in the morning with all the comforters, only emptying late at night. People had a lot to say about my seemingly ordinary parents.

One theme I heard over and over again was how lucky I was to have such warm memories. Each time I heard these words I wanted to scream, “Don’t you know that my father is too young to be a memory?” I don’t want the memories – I want him. I want them.

Today I am proud of my seemingly ordinary parents. Today I know that they led noble lives in an extraordinary way.

They were quiet people who did what needed to be done without any fanfare. This included fulfilling the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim. I was already a teen when I realized that they went to extraordinary lengths to do what needed to be done for their parents.

I can’t tell you how they did it. My father’s humor and my mother’s candor complemented each other perfectly, creating an atmosphere that had people feeling very comfortable in our house. I am left aspiring to be like them, but at a loss as to how to emulate them.

Doing small little extras was so much part of my mother that she never realized how much she did for people. She was constantly on the go, helping out in small ways and never thinking of herself as a person involved in doing extra chassadim.

Together they worked on forgiveness. When my father was badly hurt by a business partner, they worked on forgiving. If something offensive was said, my parents brushed it off, assuming that the person didn’t mean to hurt them.

Forgiveness was part of them because they were so humble. They never looked at themselves as better than others, never feeling that they deserved any honor. When they helped out someone needier, they never felt better than them. They simply did what was necessary.

My parents’ aspiration was to find the truth. They weren’t followers. They did what was right for them, regardless of what people all around them were doing.

But they were tested. Again and again. Would the middos of kibbud av va’eim, chessed, anivus and vatranus help them pull through the most difficult tests?

We got a glimpse of a new side of my parents. We learned that during the most difficult times, when we might want to run away from life, we must seek out Hashem and connect with Him.

Don’t run. Rather Examine, Search, Look, Pursue.

They looked and examined themselves .They searched for Hashem, pursued him and forged a strong a relationship with Him.

I have a vision of a tall ladder. I don’t know which rung my parents started out on. But they climbed it. Rung by rung. Higher and higher until they reached the very top. And I know that their emunah in Hashem was unwavering.

My parents had numerous struggles with parnassah. No matter how hard my father worked, the financial challenges kept on coming. I look back at their simchas hachayim, and I wonder where they got the strength to put aside their fears and anxieties, maintaining their shalom bayis and creating a calm atmosphere.

I see that this is how they lived. They examined themselves and pursued a relationship with Hashem.

It was at a routine well visit that they found out that their eighteen-month-old son was very sick. Suddenly they were thrown into a horrible nightmare. Cancer wards, survival percentages, chemo and transfusions became their language.

How did they continue exuding simchas hachayim?

Again I see that this was how they lived. They searched for Hashem and attached themselves to Him.

My brother’s bar mitzvah was a real milestone. My father gave heartfelt shevach v’hoda’ah to Hashem. But it was only a few months later when once again they were tested. The leukemia came back.

This time my brother didn’t survive. My parents lost their only son. And they still continued to maintain their simchah. They continued to search for Hashem knowing that only clinging to Him would help them deal with their tremendous pain.

A few years later they once again had to deal with illness. This time it was with my sister. It was also with my mother. They were each diagnosed with cancer in the same week.

But my parents continued to climb that ladder. Rung by rung. Searching for Hashem. The rung of self-examination to the rung of attaching themselves to Hashem. The rung of looking inward to themselves to the rung of becoming closer to Hashem.

And in reaching the top, they were omeid b’nisayon, reaching an exalted level of emunah.

That emunah brought them shleimus in their avodas Hashem.

It is not possible to be omeid b’nisayon and still be ordinary.

I look back at my growing-up years. My family name was well known. But I was too immature to feel any pride in who I was. My parents gave us so many special memories to hold on to. But I was too young to appreciate what they were creating for us.

I now realize that my parents were ordinary people….but their lives were extraordinary.   They were two ordinary people who struggled with their tremendous nisyonos in an extraordinary manner, growing together, achieving greatness on their journey to meet the King. And these two ordinary people, reaching exalted levels of bitachon, met their Creator in an extraordinary manner, with a song of emunah on their lips and simchas olam al rosham.

Today I want to shout out for everyone to hear, “Yes, I grew up in a special home, and I am grateful for all the wonderful memories I have. I am proud of where I come from. I am proud of my family name.”

Fear, Hope, Pride and Gratitude

My nephew became a bar mitzvah. We spent a beautiful Shabbos spent at my sister’s house. There were adults, teens, toddlers and babies filling up every space of her home. Following that Shabbos, I had an opportunity to talk to my brother-in-law’s mother, Mrs. Yehudis Flagler. I mentioned that it must have been so special for her to spend Shabbos at a simchah with so many of her children and grandchildren, ka”h.

Mrs. Flagler then shared her beautiful and poignant thoughts. When she was a young girl, she was stricken with polio. She lay isolated in the hospital for weeks while the virus was still contagious.  This period was followed by intense and often painful physical therapy to overcome the resulting paralysis and enable her to walk again.

One day, shortly after an extremely painful procedure, little Yehudis’ parents came to visit her. She was still sobbing from the pain, her cheeks damp from tears. For a mother to see her child like this was devastating, and the fear that took hold of Yehudis’ mother at that moment never completely left her. She wondered, what is going to be with this child?

B”H, this young child came home. She grew up and became a young girl and then a teenager. But the effects of the horrible disease never completely left her. Her mother experienced the constant fear and worry: Will my daughter ever get married? Will she have children? Will she be able to raise them? Her fears were shared by her daughter. Would she have the capabilities to raise a family and fulfill the dream that most young girls have?

B”H, she got married. And B”H she had a large family, ka”h.  With Hashem’s help, she raised a beautiful family that would make any mother proud

As the bar mitzvah celebration for her grandson was taking place, Mrs. Flagler sat in the corner of the room and thought, Surely my mother, from her place in the Olam Ha’emes, sees all this and is deriving much nachas from her beautiful family.Look at what I have. Look at what Hashem has blessed me with. I have so very much to be thankful for.

From such a bleak situation there emerged tens and tens of grandchildren, k”ah, who are continuing to follow in their grandparents’ ways.

Recently I took the old VHS tapes from my childhood and had them converted into DVDs. I popped one in to the computer, and suddenly I was watching a typical scene in my parents’ house. My mother and sister waved goodbye as they headed toward the front door for yet another trip to the mall.  Two of my siblings were sitting at the table doing homework. I was baking, and another sister walked over to the just-out-of-the-oven cookies and was sampling. There was music in the background; the scene lookedsurreal to me.

This brought to mind another memory. One evening amidst the typical hustle and bustle in the kitchen, my father walked in and looked around. With so much gratitude he said, “I can’t believe that all this is mine.”

I really didn’t understand what he was saying. I think I just thought he was being overly sentimental. But one thing I learned as a parent is that I experience similar emotions to what my father expressed that day.  Today I really understand him. I can’t believe what I can call mine. I am so grateful for it. I recognize that Hashem has truly showered me with berachah.

Lately I have been feeling fearful as well. Will my children turn out good? Will they get married and live productive lives? Will they travel the road I want them to travel? Will they achieve their potential? Will they live until 120? Will they have healthy children?

And I wonder, did my father ever look at his family and feel fear? Did he have all these questions swirling in his head?

I think that to some extent every parent worries. But too much worrying also means a lack of trust in Hashem – and it doesn’t accomplish anything!

Recently I was asked to define the word hope.

I realized that when I feel anxious, scared and apprehensive, then I feel hopeless. But when I can calm myself and recognize that my life is in Hashem’s hands, then I become transformed into a calm peaceful person. I would say that for me, the definition of hope is knowing that regardless of what happens, I will be okay.

For now I will try to incorporate the lessons of gratitude I learned from my sister’s mother-in-law. I will try to feel the pride that my father did. And I will try to worry less and hope more.

With continued tefillos to Hashem, I hope to one day sit in my children’s home enjoying true nachas.

My Bad Mood

My Bad Mood

It was simple. I was in a bad mood. I felt overwhelmed with too many things that had to be done. I was upset at some new challenges that had been placed before me. I felt incapable and incompetent. It all felt like too much for me. I wasn’t interested in new situations I’d have to deal with right now.

I wanted mundane. I wanted boring. Because I know that my mundane and boring isn’t mundane or boring. Exhaustion can definitely put me in that negative frame of mind, so I went to sleep, hoping I would wake up feeling better. But I didn’t. I woke up sunk in self-pity. I woke up in a rebellious mood. So do you know what I did? I rebelled. I thought, “Today I am angry. Today I am wondering why Hashem is giving me these challenges. Today I feel like I am not in the mood of today. You know what? I will be in a bad mood. I will feel angry. And I don’t even want to daven.

The next day, still in a slump, I called a friend. She actually was able to put a positive spin on all my distress. But I didn’t want to hear it. I was not ready to feel less pity for myself. So I called the next friend. We spoke it out. I told her all my anxieties and concerns. The more I talked, the better I felt. My friend totally got me. She related to my rebelliousness. She related to my anger. And she told me how she helps herself when she feels that way.

As the conversation was winding down I recapped how I can help myself. And then she said to me, “Don’t think you can do it by yourself. You need to ask Hashem to help you get out of this mood.” And I started laughing. Of course. What had I been I thinking? I got so caught up in the anger and negativity that I was feeling toward Hashem that I was pushing away the very One I needed to get me where I needed to go.   I forgot that Hashem is an all-encompassing, inescapable part of every area of my life. This includes my moods.

He has given me challenges, but He has given me the tools to deal with them. He has given me challenges, but He wants to help me. He hasn’t forsaken me. He gave me these challenges not to feel sorry for myself, but to reach out to him.

My circumstances didn’t change. There are situations in my life that are causing me a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear. But self-pity is futile.

Life is happening. There are stressors and pressures. There are anxieties and tensions. But sinking into self-pity is a choice I don’t want to make. I would rather choose to tell Hashem how I feel and to ask him to take away any feelings that are more harmful than good.

I think I needed that day or two to feel sorry for myself. I needed time to mope before tackling all this negativity inside of me. But now, with Hashem’s help, I am ready to get out of my slump and to keep on moving forward in a peaceful frame of mind.

Tante Goldy

I was young when we used to go visit my great-aunt Tante Goldy. But I remember her smile well. It lit up her face and made her eyes twinkle. Tanta Goldy’s smile had a way of making everyone feel comfortable.

The years went by. The family visits ended, and I saw Tanta Goldy mostly at family simchahs. Each time I saw her she would give me a great big smile; her eyes would twinkle, and her face would light up.

The years went by. I became busier and didn’t even make it to all the simchahs anymore. But whenever we spoke about Tanta Goldy, I would think of her smile.

Tanta Goldy became sick. I wasn’t sure what was going on with her. I heard little pieces of information but didn’t want to believe any of it. Tanta Goldy belongs greeting me at her front door with genuine warmth and happiness.

But when I heard that she is now living at her daughter’s house not too far from me, I knew I had to step out of my denial and go visit.

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t really think about what to expect. But when I saw her lying in bed covered in sheets that made her look so thin and frail, I couldn’t believe it. I barely recognized her. I wanted to say, “See, this is a mistake. This isn’t Tanta Goldy. She doesn’t live here. She is at her house taking care of all that she has taken care of for many years. Don’t you get it? This is wrong. My great-aunt is fine.”

But instead I sat down next to her and said hello. I reminded her who I was, and she gave me a great big smile. Her whole face lit up, and the twinkle came back into her eyes. It was at that moment that I so clearly recognized her. That smile clearly defined her face.

I never realized what a smile can do. A genuine smile makes the person approachable. It sends out signals that a person is affable and friendly – which is exactly what Tanta Goldy is – warm, friendly, caring and approachable.

I read that a sincere smile uses seventeen muscles around the eyes and mouth. That is a lot of physical work going on to make us smile.

My Tanta Goldy is not well. I am sad about that. But she spent so many of her days, of the years she was well, smiling. Tanta Goldy spent time making people feel comfortable and cared about. Whatever yissurim she is going through now doesn’t change her inside. She may not physically be what she once was. But her smile is still there. She still has the ability to use all seventeen of those muscles, and when she smiles, she lights up the room— and when she smiles I know that she is still my Tanta Goldy.

 

Shehechiyanu

Life is settling down into blessed routine. Yom tov was wonderful, B”H. Although very hectic as usual, there were so many special moments I feel grateful for. But after weeks of cooking and serving and then doing it all over again, I am ready for routine.

As I was putting away the last of yom tov I found my mind wandering to many past yomim tovim. The family dynamics are constantly changing. As the children grow older and mature, the conversations change. The chol hamoed trips change, and even the kind of food I cook changes. When my kids were all little, I couldn’t imagine that the day would come when I’d have mostly big children, ka”h. It is amazing to watch as the family’s flavor changes with the different emerging personalities. And I feel so grateful for the home and the atmosphere that is being created.

I also found myself looking back at this past year. So many tragedies have happened – it was a very turbulent year. Unfortunately, the year before was also difficult. We all feel this galus, and I think with each passing year we yearn with more longing for Mashiach. In the emotion-laden tefillah of U’nesaneh Tokef we say, “M’i Ba’eish?” But this year we truly understood what those words mean. Last year, did any parents saying those words imagine that seven of their children would perish in a fire? What about the parents who davened for shidduchim for their children? Could they have imagined that these precious daughters would be killed in a car accident while on vacation? That instead of bringing their children to the chuppah, they would bring them to kevurah? Or the girl that did become a kallah – how could she have imagined that her simchah would be turned upside-down when her chassan and parents would die in an accident? It can be so quick. A young mother who is healthy one Rosh Hashanah can become sick and pass away by the next Rosh Hashanah. And icy conditions can create almanos and yesomim within seconds.

Although I am very much not up-to-date with current events, it seems as if the tragedies don’t end. What is going on In Eretz Yisrael is frightening, and the deaths of so many innocent people is heartrending.

I used to feel so secure. I thought all that stuff that happens, happens to other people. Not to me. Not even to anyone that I know. It is awful, but it won’t be me. And even once it did happen to me, I still felt certain that it wouldn’t be me again. I was safe.

But as I get older, I don’t feel that way anymore. The ground under my feet is shakier. I do not know what Hashem has in store for me or my family. Today I feel grateful that B”H we are here, and we are all healthy. But I feel a certain anxiety, hoping and praying that these blessings will iy”H stay with us for tomorrow and all the tomorrows until next Rosh Hashanah.

AS I bentched licht on the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year, and I said the berachah of shehechiyanu, I felt such strong gratitude to Hashem.  Here I was zoche to once again celebrate a Rosh Hashanah. I was zoche to have another chance to do teshuvah and to work on myself. I was zoche to spend another Rosh Hashanah with my family. Maybe that is why I was able to enjoy yom tov so much. Yes it was busy, tiring, hectic and, at times, overwhelming. But the warm feeling that I experienced on the first night of yom tov as I said that shehechiyanu stayed with me throughout. Hashem has given me so many berachos this past year. Each time we spend together as a family I am able to access that hakaras hatov for all that He has given me.

I don’t know what this upcoming year holds for me. But I continue to daven that iy”H it should continue to bring me berachah and more berachah. I hope that it will bring all of Klal Yisrael lots of berachah. And this year we should be zoche to say the berachah of shehechiyanu upon the arrival of Mashiach.

My Mother’s Yahrtzeit

My Mother’s Yahrtzeit

I was about to leave to the grocery store when the phone rang. It was my mother. My stomach dropped. She didn’t sound good. “Mommy,” I said, full of concern, “what is going on?”

She answered, “I just spoke to the doctor. The results just came in. There is cancer all over my body. He is willing to try to treat it, but from a medical viewpoint I don’t have too much time.”

MY mother’s yartzheit is coming up. And the memory of that conversation sits heavy on my shoulders. So many memories from that summer sit heavy on my shoulders.

Most people remember Hurricane Sandy and all the destruction it caused; I remember Hurricane Irene and how sick my mother was. We lost our power, and it took a few days to have it restored. But all I could think about was keeping my cellphone charged. I couldn’t lose touch with my mother.

As the summer was ending, her health was deteriorating. I have memories of speaking to my sisters and my aunts. We had to make sure that someone was there with her. She was so weak. Although she didn’t want to admit it, we knew we couldn’t leave her alone.

The school year was starting. As a teacher I felt irresponsible not to be there on the first day of school. The turmoil raged inside of me; it attacked me fiercely and mercilessly with self-doubt about where I belonged.

Friday afternoon I knew the answer. My mother needed me. My class would have to be okay with a substitute. That Shabbos, as I watched my children in the park, many neighbors asked me if I was all ready to start the year. I smiled and said yes. But my stomach was in knots. I didn’t tell them that I would be flying out of town to be with my very sick mother.

As Rosh Hashanah approached, my mother was fearful. She obviously couldn’t travel to be with any of her children. She knew how difficult it was for any of us to come to her for Rosh Hashanah and again for Sukkos. She kept asking, “What will I do? How can I do this yom tov alone?” Each time I repeated the same thing: “Ma, don’t worry. Something will work out. We won’t leave you alone.”

She didn’t have to worry – because on Rosh Hashanah she wasn’t here anymore. And I was left with a big gaping hole and a heartache so huge.

As her yahrtzeit approaches, I would like to talk about her, and I hope it will bring an aliyah to her neshamah.

When I got married I thought I would need my mother less, but instead I realized how much more I needed her. A new husband, a miscarriage, cooking suppers, a hard pregnancy, grocery shopping and a newborn were just a few of the many times when I turned to her. She was always there for me yet never overstepping her boundaries and coming too often.

She was a very engaged bubby. She had a really special phone relationship with my oldest son. She knew what each child liked and disliked. And if a child was sick, she made sure to ask about him or her until he or she was better.

She understood the importance of being there for her community. She took on many projects for the community, never thinking that she was doing anything out of the ordinary. She always seemed to be doing small favors for people, not even realizing that what she was doing were considered favors.

She created a happy environment in her house. It was an easy place to be. Throughout the years there were many people who enjoyed hanging out there. She always had time to listen to people, advising them if that was what they wanted; she had an uncanny way of seeing the full picture and pointing out facts to others that they didn’t see themselves. She also had a special way of calming down anxious people.

She had a lot of kibbud av v’eim for her parents. When she first got married, long-distance calls were a big deal, so she and they set a schedule. She called her parents on Motzei Shabbos, and they called her on Wednesday night. This schedule lasted until she was nifteres. As she got busier, she didn’t forget. If she knew she would be out on Wednesday night, she made sure to tell them. When they came to visit, she took such good care of them, happy to do whatever it was that they needed. As she watched her parents growing older, it bothered her so much that she wasn’t there to do her part together with her siblings to meet their needs.

She lost a son, a husband and a daughter. But she held on tightly to her faith. She never let go, no matter how strong the pain. As the Mashgiach of the yeshivah said: “I learn the Ani Ma’amins; she lived the Ani Ma’amins.”

I have a message on my voicemail. It’s from August 6, 2011. It’s from my mother. She says, “Hi, Miriam. Nothing important. I will speak to you tomorrow.”

But so many tomorrows have passed. And I cannot speak to her. I know that this year she isn’t worried about Rosh Hashanah. As she sit on high in a better world, I hope and daven that she can be a meilitz yosher for my family and all of Klal Yisroel that it should be a simchadik year and that we should be zoche to the geulah Sheleimah.

Comfort From A Mountain

To My Dear Parents,

So much has changed since the last time I spoke to you. I have so many things to share. I have so many questions to ask. I feel so sad that you’re not here for me. I miss you and I think about you every day. Sometimes the pain is so great it feels like I will topple over from it. At these times I have to remind myself that this is what was supposed to be. Hashem didn’t make a mistake. He knew all the pain that I would have from your deaths. Each time I have pain I know that this pain was taken into consideration. I believe. I really do. But still, sometimes I wonder.

I know I am an adult. But sometimes I still feel like a young child. I am not sure I know how to do life without you. I still need your guidance, your listening ear and your care. I feel so lonely without you.

Last week we went on vacation. It was wonderful – so relaxing and so much fun. It felt so good to let life’s pressures roll off of me for a few days. I was lighter and more carefree. But through it all there was a running refrain going through my mind: I wish I could share this with my parents. They would be so happy for me. They would love to hear all about it. They would love to see pictures as it is happening. Underneath my smile and laughter, there was pain.

One day we drove up a mountain. The altitude was 40,000 feet. We inched up the windy, twisty, narrow road until we reached the top. I remember when the two of you went to New Hampshire together. You also drove up a high mountain. What did you see when you got to the top? Did you see a miniature world? We saw four different states. We saw life. Houses and office buildings. Streets, highways and cars. Those people down there didn’t know that they were being watched by us, so high above them. They only knew what they saw in front of them. How limited their vision was.

How limited my vision is. I am down here in this world with masked vision. What can I see? What do I know? My understanding of the events in my life is so narrow. My eyes are covered with a thick, thick covering.

I remember after Chesky died, another bereaved mother shared a mashal with you that she took from her own life. She told how she used to drive a small car and could only see what was right in front of her in the street. Then she switched to driving a minivan and had a higher-up view that allowed her to see more. When she started driving a twelve-seater her view went much farther. And when she had an opportunity to sit in a truck, she was able to see so much more.

Sometimes I wish I had a better understanding of where you are and why you aren’t here with me. But Mount Greylock taught me a lesson – although really it is a lesson that started from you. I am much too low down to see even half the picture. But I am high enough to know that each day I can work on accepting Hashem’s will for my life.

Just as you did.

Love,

Miriam